Tag Archives: Education

The story behind the picture

education-is-everything

In the late 60s, early 70s Walter Mischel, a Stanford psychologist and researcher, conducted the famous marshmallow tests with children.  These experiments sought to understand children’s abilities to delay gratification [Click here for Wikipedia article].  The resulting articles that came out of the experiments claimed that children who could delay gratification would be more successful in life because they could delay gratification and understand long-term gratification or reward over short-term gains of a smaller reward. Mischel followed up with these pre-school students and found that the ones who delayed gratification fared better in life. Hence, this study has been taken up by people who want to fight against a lack of willpower, temptation and promote the latest psudo-psychology craze grit [click here for TED talk on Grit](Urist, 2014).

The study even noticed how poor children weren’t able to delay gratification whereas the more well-off children could wait the 20 minutes and receive the additional marshmallows. This section of the study also helped promote some of our most harmful tropes or “poverty myths” about poor people, its their fault. If the poor parents, like poor children, could overcome their need for instant gratification and delay then they could “lift themselves up out of poverty”.  These myths, like stereotypes are not harmful because they are untrue, but because they only tell a single story or a partial truth.

It is true that the children in the study did not delay gratification and wait 20 minutes to eat the marshmallow in front of them in order to get the additional marshmallows promised to them by the researchers.  The researchers can prove that is exactly what happened. But is it simply a lack of willpower? This wasn’t the only test that showed these results.

“Time and again, poor children have performed significantly worse than their more fortunate counterparts. A 2011 study that looked at low-income children in Chicago noted how poor children struggled to delay gratification. A 2002 study, which examined the physical and psychological stresses that accompany poverty, did too. And so have many others.” (Ferdman, 2016)

The above quote came from a piece on The Wonk Blog which is run by The Washington Post called “The big problem with one of the most popular assumptions about the poor“. This piece examined studies that took children’s heart-rate and other bio-metrics into account as they made decisions about whether or not to take a treat now or wait for a promised increase in the treat later.  The study found that children seemed to be making calculated decisions and not acting impulsively. In 2012, researchers at The University of Rochester decided to do a new marshmallow test study. This time the groups were put in reliable and unreliable situations.  The reliable group was able to delay gratification and the unreliable group took what was available now because the researchers had proven themselves unreliable.

“The new marshmallow experiment doesn’t discount the old one—willpower still does breed long-term success, as far as we know. But it suggests that when children are in an environment where they trust in a clear long-term gain, they are more likely to pursue it.” (Severns, 2012)

Which brings me back to the picture. I snapped the picture at a store called I was shot in joburg in the Maboneng precinct in Johannesburg.  You can read about the current program on their website, but the website doesn’t give you the full story.  I got the prologue on a tour during the study abroad trip I led over winter break.

As with any good story, there needs to an exigency for the protagonist to act. In this case it was a DUI the founder received while in the Western Cape. When he went before the judge he asked if he could do the community service back in his hometown of Johannesburg instead of Cape Town.  He said he would like to serve the community using his talents as a photographer.  The judge agreed to this request and he went back to Johannesburg to teach children in a poor neighborhood photography.  He showed up to the school and thought he would be greeted with open arms by grateful children who would flock to this white savior. (This part was told to us by the tour guide with a smile on her face because now he knows how ridiculous his original assumptions were.) However, when he got to the school to teach the children photography they had no interest.

Why?

For a couple of reasons, but mainly because they didn’t trust him that he would deliver on what he said he would.  So, the effort took time. First, he played soccer with the kids and, eventually, won them over.  Then he brought them disposable cameras so they could take pictures in their neighborhood.  He spent time with them week after week. Then it was his last week of community service and he told the kids, “Bye!” They said, “Okay! See you next week!”

There wasn’t supposed to be a “next week”. His community service was over. These kids though had opened up to him and trusted him. He realized that he was not going to be another in a long succession of people who let them down.  This is where the story on the website picks up [click here to read more].

Now, the company is building an avenue of trust, work, and long-term opportunity for success. If Bernard had only done his community service and not come back to the students after it was no longer required by the courts then he would have re-emphasized the pattern of mistrust and instability for the kids. This helps build the calculation in people to weigh what they’ve been told, what they’ve experienced, and what they need to make a calculation for what’s best for them in each moment.  Hopefully, what we can learn from these newer marshmallow test studies is that people whose lives are different from our own have lived experiences that are valid and they make decisions based on their own calculus with a valid logic.

 

 

 

 


What will be your South African story? — Social Movements in South Africa

I woke up to a powerful and unsolicited endorsement this morning for why students should study in South Africa. Having lived and studied in South Africa for six years, unsolicited, I’d attest to ‘Social Movement in South Africa’ by Prof. Ferguson, to have the prospect of providing a priceless opportunity to any student or person […]

via What will be your South African story? — Social Movements in South Africa

On the first day of school every semester there are students and instructors who appear slightly lost as we all try to find our classrooms. The first few weeks are a bit disorienting, but soon a pattern develops and routine settles in. However, there are students who bravely challenge themselves to breakout of their campus routines and find learning experiences that defy routine. Study abroad turns the world into your classroom and short-term programs offer students a unique academic experience of a focused instructor-lead program where every aspect of the trip is geared towards achieving learning objectives.

Explore South Africa and discover yourself.


6: Protest Action on University Campuses — A podcast about critical issues in higher education.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F264710913&visual=true&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false

Dr Prishani Naidoo joins The Academic Citizen to discuss the politics of protest action within the context of university campuses in South Africa. The conversation centres around the university as a microcosm of society and the legitimacy of violent and non-violent forms of protest. The Academic Citizen also gains insight into students’ perspectives on protest […]

via 6: Protest Action on University Campuses — A podcast about critical issues in higher education.


Ideas Are Scary

I’ve been on the receiving end of teachers or instructors who were scared of new ideas. They just didn’t know how to handle anyone who questioned their methodology. Since I had that experience the times that standout in my education were those moments when my instructor smiled and let me make an argument for my crazy idea. Those are the instructors I keep in mind when I think about being a professor because schools need more instructors who will welcome students’ ideas. Students take a risk when they approach an instructor. If an instructor smashes the student’s idea hater than welcoming it and helping the student channel & develop their idea into the best possible form for the class. I love this commercial. Hopefully, the message can resonate with people, not just for GE, but also other places where ideas scare us. As the commercial states “under the proper care, they [ideas] become something beautiful.”


5 Years #TBT

I keep saying, “Wow! What a difference 5 years makes.” Then I stopped, thought about it. And damn! If I wasn’t completely right about this one!

Five years ago…

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I was still reeling from the effects of 2008. In the short span of those 12 months my mother died, my sister and her family moved out of state, I relocated to Durham, got laid off from my job, went back to university for the last 9 credits of my bachelor’s degree, and graduated.

This time in 2009, I was bracing for my first birthday without my mom. It was the first time that I didn’t feel any joy on that particular day. It felt more empty, her absence amplified. Honestly, I do not even remember doing anything special for my own birthday. I took a trip to visit my sister and helped her celebrate her big day. It was my way to compensate for our mom being gone. She did an amazing job, even as we got older, to make our birthdays feel special. We were lucky to have our birthdays around Easter and almost every year we were all together at some point close to our birthdays.

But 2009 was the start of putting together new traditions with our smaller family. Her birthday was really great! Our dad and step mom came up for the day. My nephew really enjoyed so many of “his people” being at his house for the day. And there was lemon cake (always a win). As 2009 progressed things impoved. I was able to celebrate my nephew’s 3rd birthday with him. In September, I started a new job that I was good at and enjoyed. Double bonus! I got rid of all the notes, articles, and papers from undergad because I had no plans of going back to school! I was d-o-n-e!

Five years later, I not only changed jobs but careers. Moved to Minnesota, I still don’t know if its natural that people live this far north. I went back to school and I’m about to graduate with my master’s and start a PhD program in the fall! What? In 2009, I was still dreaming of Africa and now I’ve not only been here but I’m living here for 6 months.

None of what I’m doing now was on the agenda then. I’m in awe of my life and loving it!


South Africa’s Talent Gap


Twitter Africa-How Africa Tweets


Meeting my cohort

Tonight was a farewell reception for the group going to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa for the semester. Its a good mix of first-year students, juniors, and seniors. There is also a wide mix of majors going (business, travel and leisure studies, psychology, elementary education, special education, and undecided. But, the group is 100% female!

I was surprised by this because the one group meeting I attended there was a guy there. Amy, who is the intern in the Multi-Cultural Student Services department helping to arrange all of our paperwork, said that study abroad is statistically 70% female. While universities are 60/40 split, study abroad sees a higher gender split. She sighted several studies, which attributed the lower rate for males studying abroad to such things as: risk, majors, and planning.

We did some icebreakers and talked about what we will miss (or what we think we will miss) while we are in South Africa. I’m not sure what I’ll miss because most of the things I will miss, I already miss because they are back in NC! I am looking forward to seafood! I do not think this fact can be overstated.

I still do not know where I will live while I’m in South Africa.  I do not think I will live with my fellow St. Cloud State University students, but  I wonder if I will be with other international students who are not studying abroad?  I’m not stressed about the situation, just curious.

50 days!!!


Erin A. Frost

Technical Communication. Rhetoric. Feminisms. Composition.

South Africa Experience

My Experience Studying Abroad in South Africa

Dawn Opel

Assistant Professor at Michigan State University

Experiencing South Africa

Mason Study Abroad: Social Movements in South Africa

Fly High, Fly Far: Maya's South African Experience

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

The Hardest Science

A psychology blog. Thoughts about the mind, science, society, and whatever else.

Leading Technical Communication

On technical communication, leadership, and occasional flights of fancy

[ medical rhetoric ]

a special interest group of scholars from rhetoric and writing studies interested in medical rhetoric(s)

connexions • international professional communication journal

connexions • international professional communication journal (ISSN 2325-6044)

ATTW Bulletin

Association of Teachers of Technical Writing

Andy's Vision Quest

A Vision Quest is a rite of passage.

BLACKS DO SWIM

Be Assertive. Be Bold. Be Creative

Social Movements in South Africa

A George Mason Short-Term Study Abroad Course